tv Meet the Presss Press Pass NBC March 1, 2015 11:30am-11:46am EST
all-access pass to a "meet the press" conversation. >> this week inside "press pass" from new york to chicago to the white house. it's all in a book called "believer" by david axelrod who joins me now. david, wewelcome. >> good to be here chuck. >> you're one of the advisers who decided to write a book while the president is still in office. should you be criticizing yourself for doing this? >> i thought about it actually because i have been dismayed about books titten, and especially the reporting of them. i think bob gates' book was more balanced instead of the nuggets that were pulled out of it. >> as he said over and over again. >> he's right about that.
my book is not just about barack obama. one of the reasons i wrote the book is people think i was somehow born in 2007. i actually had a long life before that. the obama campaign was a culmination of that life and i wanted to reclaim my life. and so, you know, it isn't an obama book per se. i knew it would be evaluated as such by some but i wanted to tell that story. it's been four years since i left the white house. i wanted to tell my story, and there was an interest in having me tell my story, so i took advantage of that, and i'm glad that i did. >> i want to get to some of that but i want to sort of dispatch with the obama administration parts of it. is there stuff you decided, i'm not going to litigate this now, or i'm not going to get into this now while he's in office? >> you know i guess i made subtle judgments as i went along, some of them unconscious judgments. what i tried not to do is settle
scores in this book. i tried not to air dirty linen for my own purposes. i did a lot of that. there were things that i wrote that felt very cathartic to write and then i excised them because it didn't contribute to the story, and i didn't want my book to be about that. the subtitle i wanted to put on it but it was too long was "how my idealism survived 40 years of politics." >> i've known a lot of political consultants, i've covered you for 25 years, and you have the mers naer mercenaries and then you have the true believers. one of my mentors in this business used to say, i would not work for somebody i couldn't vote for. yet there are other people in your business that will work for people that they wouldn't vote for if the money is right. >> there is a corollary in
politicians themz.selves. they always say the world of politics divides them in two categories one more numerous than the others. the first is because they want to be something, and then there's the other category that run because they want to do something. i was in that category. i was attracted to this as a small boy when john f. kennedy kept campaigning in new york. by the way, chuck, on october 27 1960 can you imagine a democrat campaigning in new york city ten days before an election? >> i always remind people eventually every state becomes a swing state. it just takes time. i guess what -- i want to ask this question about "believer." when you wrote it you had this dispute with the president, perhaps, about a stance on gay marriage. i guess the question is when you have a personal belief that maybe is out of step with where the culture is at the moment do you tell a candidate not to express that personal belief
publicly? how do you deal with something like that? gay marriage is one of them. the president, when he was a candidate for state senate he was for it. he filled out a questionnaire. then he said no i'm going to be for civil unions. what you implied was he was doing what he thought was the most acceptable thing. >> all i can say is yes, as a political adviser, you say, this is more than the market will bear and you have to make a decision on how you want to handle it. he tried to handle it by endorsing civil unions and saying that gay/lesbian couples should have the rights of any other couple treating it as a religious sacrament. he acknowledged the other day that it made himble. that's what i'm saying it made him uncomfortable. let me say something about leadership. as a student of history, and i know you are as well you think about abraham lincoln and the emancipation proclamation and the anger on the part of his supporters because he wasn't quick enough to do it. franklin roosevelt running as kind of an isolationist even as
he was maneuvering the country to get into war. sometimes you have to pick the time and place and move the country along with you. on this issue, i think the president has done that and he'll be remembered not for this but as the president who ended "don't ask don't tell," doma who did endorse gay marriage at a time it gave real acceleration to the movement and i think that's what's ultimately important. >> i'm going to take a quick break. we'll be back with more on david axelrod and the things that don't have to do with president obama, in just a moment.
back for more with david axelrod and his book "believer." i remember the first time i read that you were the political consultant helping this guy barack obama when he was running for the u.s. senate and i thought, that makes a lot of sense. david axelrod is always the consultant that will work for the african-american candidate in a race. he's more comfortable working with the african-american candidate even if other consultants say, that guy can't win. you were always sort of that guy. what always attracted you to trying to -- you were you know this white political consultant helping african-americans rise in leadership. >> well first of all, it helped
that duvall patrick, barack obama, really outstanding, unique individuals. but i also grew up in the civil rights era. the woman who took me to see "jfk when i was five years old, she was an african-american woman. i always wondered what she would think if she knew i worked with the first black president. i always managed to knock down these barriers and it felt ex il exhilerating to help these people define those barriers and taking a step forward. that was very very satisfying to me. >> you had two careers. you're a political consultant now, but before that you were a journalist covering city hall. >> great education. >> a small little paper called "the chicago tribune." that was an interesting decision when you said no more i'm going to work for the system.
why? >> i loved being a reporter so much i didn't want to do it frankly, in a way. the newspaper business was changing even then. we had new management early '80s. they brought in a much more rigorous, green-eyed kind of management. the barrier between the digital side sdmut side were breaking down and they brought in new editors who were much more excited about an old story that the old editors were and i just felt like i wasn't going to be able to do the kind of work that i wanted to do and i didn't want to do it in a way that you know left me unsatisfied. and at the same time paul simon, who you'll remember was a congressman in illinois running for the senate before your time actually against a very embedded incumbent, he came and paul was kind of the orville red reddenbacher of politics bow
tie. but a guy impeccably honest crusader for civil rights crusader for civil rights in springfield, also very hard to do and i thought he was a guy that wouldn't embarrass me so i thought maybe it's best if i work on the inside commenting on what people are doing on the inside. >> did you ever want to get back to journalism? >> i always considered myself a hybrid of the two. i love news and it was a great joy to sit down -- it wasn't a great joy when i was doing it but in retrospect sitting down and getting back to writing in a serious way was a very very en energizing thing for me. they're both about the art of storytelling and i don't mean that in a cynical way.
campaigns and governments at their best are telling a story about what kind of future they're fighting for, and so in my -- that's what i did as a reporter i told stories, getting to the essence, the authentic essence of things. so i brought that to politics and so in a sense, the gulf is not that big. there is an interrelationship between the two. >> you ended up in chicago. you're a new york guy or a chicago guy? what do you say these days? >> i'm a total chicago guy now. when i went to new york to go to college, i always thought i would go back. then i got this job at the tribune. i was very very lucky to get an internship at the chicago tribune right after i graduated from college. they put me on nights for two and a half years. i covered murder and mayhem which was great practice for public politics. it was a great city with a small town sense of community, and on top of that i met a beautiful,
wonderful woman and married her, and she was from chicago. so i stayed and i can't imagine living anywhere else. when i was here working for the president, i called myself a chicagoan on assignment. because i knew i would always go back. >> you call it "believer." you still have some idealism in you. >> i do. even on this messy track -- >> there is a lot of cynicism out there. >> there is a lot of cynicism. but even on this messy track, to me what it's about isn't about the day-to-day contretemps or any of that it's about what you can accomplish. when i ran into people on the street who had a preexisting medical condition and now have health care when i run into an auto worker who is working and not sitting on the couch, or some military family where the loved one is home and not overseas because the president brought all those troops home. there's so many ways in which we are different now, and i think for the better.
to me that's how you measure, not political style points not who is up or down at the moment but are you moving the arc of history in the right way, and i'm happy to be a part of that. >> in a history of 50 years, david david mccalliffe will go mcdul cull -- mccullough will write another obama book. what do you think it will be about? >> i think it will be about leading this country through the economic crisis. i think that will be the first line. health care to me is a historic thing, but i remember how frightful that time was every day coming to work discussing a one in three chance of